Early Childhood Center likely to stay split between two schools
FAIRFIELD — For the next school year, more Early Childhood Center students will be sent to Stratfield Elementary School from the program’s original location at Fairfield Warde High School.
Though some are against the idea of a decentralized ECC, this short-term measure is indicative of future long-term plans.
Board of Education members described decisions regarding the ECC a “linchpin” of future plans. And in an informal, unofficial vote, a majority of board members were in favor of seeing the ECC split into two sites, though many had different criteria as to what exactly that entailed.
“I don’t see why we can’t have two half-schools,” Jeff Peterson said at the Feb. 27 meeting. “I’m not seeing why breaking (the ECC) up is necessarily a terrible thing.”
Out of the nine members, Jennifer Maxon-Kennelly and Trisha Pytko were in favor of maintaining a single, centralized ECC program.
“One of my priorities is to keep the ECC in one central model. ... I would like to see a long-term solution as soon as possible,” Pytko said. “One year of change for those students is huge.”
Jerriann Mitchell, a speech language pathologist at the ECC since 2004, said she was “devastated” at the tentative long-term plan of having a two-site ECC.
“Knowing that this is all preliminary allows for staff and families to send the BOE input to inform the long-term plan,” Mitchell said.
Board members discussed keeping ECC students in one school, or even placing those students in an existing elementary school and having those students redistributed across the district.
That idea, to some, was simply not feasible.
“We all want to do everything. We can’t,” Connor Dwyer said. “Unless this board is willing to close an elementary to convert into the ECC, I don’t think this board will create an elementary-size school. I don’t see that in the cards.”
In January, the board unanimously approved what they deemed a short-term plan to send more students to Stratfield Elementary School, where there already were two preschool classes, from the ECC’s Fairfield Warde High School location.
Administrators cited a ballooning student population at the ECC as a reason for the move. The number of students has doubled over the last nine years; there were 161 students at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
This short-term plan was approved to go into effect for the 2019-20 school year.
Superintendent Toni Jones said the meeting was instrumental to moving forward with a legitimate plan and idea.
“Facilities discussions are always big and it’s good to have those discussions,” Jones said. “It’s not a voting item but we got a good sense of what the board believes as a body.”